Europe

Sagunto: a Mediterranean city full of history

Sagunto is the capital of the Camp de Morvedre region. It is located north of the province of Valencia, at a strategic point for communications in the peninsula. It converges two fundamental axes that communicate, on the one hand, Catalonia and Andalusia and, on the other, the Mediterranean with the north of the peninsula through Aragon.

For this reason, it is no coincidence that since ancient times the place was chosen to establish permanent population settlements. We know that More than 2,500 years ago, the territory that Sagunto occupies today was inhabited by the Iberian civilization.. The settlement was called Arse and was an important economic and political center.

The Iberian city was besieged by the troops of the Carthaginian Hannibal. After eight months, the inhabitants of Arse, out of desperation, decided to immolate themselves before the city fell. When Hannibal’s troops broke through the walls they found the city reduced to ashes.

After the Second Punic War, the Romans returned the city to the Iberians, although now with enormous influences from Roman Hispania. An example of this was the name change: it stopped being called Ass to be called Saguntum.

Saguntum, a Roman municipality

Saguntum, after a civil war in Roman Hispania, he remained loyal to Rome. Thus, in the year 4 BC it obtained the title of Roman municipality. It was from that moment on that the city began to transform into a great Roman city and, therefore, the vast majority of buildings that are preserved today are from that time.

Roman buildings of Sagunto

Walking through Sagunto we find traces of Roman civilization in its streets. An example is one of the doors that gave access to the Roman circus, the Southern Gate. The Plaça Major was, in Roman times, the forum of the lower city. Today we can still see remains of shafts and capitals of Roman columns.

The city also has an impressive historical museum in which you can admire archaeological pieces from the excavations carried out both in the castle and in the urban fabric of the city. The most important collection is related to the Ibero-Roman era.

The Roman theater of Sagunto

But the most impressive thing still standing today is the Roman theatre. Undoubtedly, these are the best-known Roman archaeological remains in the city. This enclosure, with a capacity of 4000 people, was built in the 1st century AD, during the time of Emperor Tiberius.

The magnificence of the building made it one of the first monuments of the Historical Heritage of Spain. That was in 1896. During much of the 20th century the building was practically abandoned until the 70s and 80s when interest in this magnificent theater began to recover.

 

In 1984 its restoration was planned. Ten years later the works began, which received harsh criticism. Legal action was even taken on the grounds that the works violated the Spanish Historical Heritage Law.

Despite the fact that the Superior Court of Justice of the Valencian Community considered that “The restoration and rehabilitation project really consisted of a work that is based on the ruins of a Roman theater and hides them, in the case of a reconstruction on the authentic ruins (… )”, ordered the demolition of the works to return it to its original state.

In 2009, the court itself, following the principle of efficiency in public spending, upheld the appeal filed by the Generalitat Valenciana and the Sagunto City Council where they argued that the demolition of the works could not be carried out.

Medieval and modern Saguntum

The history of the city did not end with the fall of the Roman Empire. Islam arrived in Sagunto in the 8th century., and with it a set of modifications in the cultural and architectural sphere of the city. The streets formed a tortuous network of narrow alleys.

Some elements of that time can be found in the streets of Sagunto. The oven in the Arab baths is an example of this, as the façade with part of the semicircular arch and the coat of arms of the Múzquiz family, the family to which the oven belonged, is still preserved today.

With the expulsion of the Muslims, Sagunto will become a Christian city. The Muslim population was confined to the so-called Morería. Churches began to be built and in the places where the Arab souks were, stately mansions were built.

A symbol of the triumph of Christianity over Islam can be found in the church of Santa María, since it was built on the old main mosque. In 1982, the church was declared a National Monument.

Twentieth century

At the beginning of the last century, the city became one of the most important industrial cities in the Spanish Mediterranean. That was thanks to the mining industry and the port of Sagunto.

From that time we can appreciate some important buildings such as the Old Hospital or the General Workshops, a space currently intended for cultural dissemination through theatrical and/or musical performances, various exhibitions, congresses, etc.

With the industrial growth of the city there was a massive influx of working population. This is how the workers’ neighborhood, the commissary, the church of Nuestra Señora de Begoña and also the management team were built. The latter were the buildings responsible for housing the general offices and the management of large companies based in the town.

In short, as you can see, Sagunto is a city full of history. Walking through its streets you can travel from the dawn of Western civilization to the time of the Industrial Revolution. It is, without a doubt, a fabulous destination for history lovers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button